“BALTIMORE: THE INFERNAL TRAIN” #1 (Comic Review)
Bigger weapons, higher death-tolls, and political interests have changed the face of mans need to divide and conquer, but for some, like Henry Baltimore, actions in battle have consequences far beyond human understanding. With a post-war Europe plagued with vampires, BALTIMORE takes the traumas of war and mixes it with the arcane and bizarre; creating a sublime series that ensnares readers with its dark charm. BALTIMORE: THE INFERNAL TRAIN takes our hero into the wild streets of Budapest as he continues his hunt to eradicate the blood-suckers that he, mistakenly, let out onto the world.
Beginning with a call from an old friend, Henry Baltimore finds himself aboard a ship to Hungary, momentarily abandoning his hunt for the Red King of Vampires, the killer of his family. As he descends onto the city, he senses something strange is lurking the streets even as citizens murmur among themselves that Budapest is soon to become one of the last havens of humanity. After a quiet night, a train guard crashes through the bar where Baltimore is drinking and starts raving of vampires in the town. Baltimore, being the good citizen that he is, immediately goes to investigate only to find a mysterious train newly arrived at the station, fueled by the bodies of vampires but leaving no smoke. Is this perhaps the end all to the vampire plague that the world has been looking for, or the start of something more sinister? With the arrival of a strange woman and her promise of the plagues immediate eradication, suddenly things don’t seem as normal as they once did.
Baltimore is one of those fantastic pieces of work that unfortunately has been flying a bit under the radar. Though the one half of its creative force, Mike Mignola, is practically a household name, with his many creative expenditures, it’s understandable that something would suffer under the weight of fame. That being said, Baltimore still gets all the attention to detail that is expected from the creator of HELLBOY and is as worthy of a read as it’s big-fisted demon companion. One of the most noticeable, and in turn most interesting, aspects of the comic are the vampires themselves. There is no romanticizing of the creatures, no high-class sex appeal. These are the down and dirty swarms of blood-hungry monsters not seen since the vampires of 30 DAYS OF NIGHT. It’s refreshing to see the ghouls for what they really are, a counteractive to the human condition not weighed down by morals or laws, but simply driven to eat and survive. With this in mind, it’s easy to see why the creators chose the setting of post-WWI as the story’s backdrop. Nothing adds to the ravages of war like an inhuman plague, reminding the reader that just because a soldier is off the battlefield doesn’t mean he’s done fighting or done facing his demons.
BALTIMORE is also written by Christopher Golden, Mignola’s long time writing companion on the series. Golden adds his unique macabre touch to the tale and is generally credited by Mignola as the head creator of the series. With their combined efforts, the story reads smooth and naturally, with nods to old occult lore and timeless, wandering heroes. Artist Ben Stenbeck is no stranger when it comes to illustrating horror and is credited with several appearances in other Mignola works such as BPRD and WITCHFINDER. His style capitalizes on Mignola’s own artwork, with dark shadows and perpetual twilight settings, but also stands on its own with thinner ink work and less artistic license on human anatomy. With this unbeatable team, BALTIMORE: THE INFERNAL TRAIN continues on steadily through the underbelly of Dark Horse Comics, but is certainly not to be missed.